You call that liberation?
Most Americans are unaware that the occupation of Iraq is going very badly, because the media has stopped covering the story. I’ve been receiving daily reports from an American peacemaker team currently in Iraq (www.cpt.org), which is visiting schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and meeting with U.S. military officials.
Baghdad is still in chaos. There is no phone service. Electricity is only on three hours a day, so refrigeration, sanitation and air conditioning are impossible and schools and hospitals can’t function properly. While some schools are open, few students are attending.
Many people are without jobs, so they can’t feed their families. Iraqi friends of the team say, “It was better before. At least we had food.” Doctors, who used to be paid by the government have been working without pay.
Medicines and medical equipment are still scarce, and about 2 million children in Baghdad have suffered from severe diarrhea since April 1, due to lack of sanitation and clean water.
The peace team visited a neighborhood where streets are filled with large green pools of raw sewage. The team observed U.S. army trucks transporting Iraqi prisoners. A soldier said they were being taken to the northeast for further questioning, but gave no other details.
Iraqi families who are trying to find their relatives who have disappeared since the occupation report being told they could only get information by going to the airport, but are denied access upon their arrival.
One woman commented, “This is just like living under Saddam; you can’t find out anything.” When Army Lt. Col. Stewart Gordon was asked how families might find out where relatives are being held, he replied that no system exists for locating or trial of prisoners.
The American team came across a 1,000-person march protesting the arrest of Muslim religious leaders. A banner read, “If there’s freedom for everyone, why are so many in prison?” One protester said, “There is no freedom if the U.S. just takes over Saddam’s role.”
Many Iraqis have told the team that democracy has no meaning unless salaries, electricity and gasoline supplies are restored, and that suicide bombings will increase in Iraq because of anger and frustration with the foreign occupiers. Graffiti is appearing saying, “We want Saddam back.”
Our soldiers were told that they were liberating the Iraqis, but it’s becoming apparent to many of them that their role is now that of prison guard.
Charlie Lichty, a Vietnam veteran, has been delivering letters to U.S. soldiers saying, “I am not casting blame on you. I know you believe that what you are doing is right. But this is not a just war.” He has not received any angry responses. In fact, one soldier told him, “I am totally in agreement with you. Those five guys over there [in my platoon] agree too.”
The invasion and occupation of Iraq is wrong, and the killing of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians will continue, because the war for Iraqi freedom is not over, it’s really just begun.
Despite being a big star, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen has frequently connected with the young AVSC athletes while training at Aspen Highlands over the years.